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The secret Beatles song in Edgar Wright film 'Last Night in Soho'


The opening shot of Edgar Wright’s most recent film, Last Night in Soho, immediately establishes the culture clash that surrounds the film’s central character, Ellie. An obsessive of the swinging sixties, Ellie is a fashion nut who designs her own dresses in the style of the day, replicates the iconic poster from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and listens almost exclusively to artists from that time period, including Cilla Black, The Kinks, and Dusty Springfield.

As Ellie bursts into her room, she’s greeted with the opening drum and bass run from another iconic song from that era: Peter and Gordon’s ‘A World Without Love’. The song’s carefree sound belies a darker and more gloomy message, a sort of subtle foreshadowing for the trials and tribulations that Ellie will be forced through by the end of the movie.

The contrast of happy music and sad lyrics is a bit of a cliche these days, but it was fairly uncommon in the mid-1960s, requiring a bit of wit and subversiveness to get such a dour message on the radio. It should come as no surprise that the vibrant melody and melancholy words were handled by an expert songwriter, but who that specific songwriter is might: Paul McCartney.

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During his tenure with The Beatles, it wasn’t all that uncommon of McCartney to give songs away to his friends and close acquaintances. He gave Cilla Black ‘Love of the Loved’ for her debut single, The Rolling Stones were famously gifted ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ before the Jagger/Richards songwriting partnership kicked off, and Mary Hopkins ascended to number two in the UK in 1969 with McCartney’s ‘Goodbye’, held off of the top spot by another McCartney song, The Beatles hit number ‘Get Back’.

Peter Asher and Gordon Waller were well known to McCartney: the Beatle was dating Peter’s sister, Jane, at the time and was even sharing a room with Peter in the Asher family house. Peter asked McCartney to write him and his singing partner a song, and McCartney reached back into his archives rather than produce a new composition. ‘A World Without Love’ was written by McCartney as a teenager, but he never felt it was good enough to include in The Beatles repertoire, so the song was never attempted by the Fab Four.

Even though they were happy to give away material, Lennon and McCartney rarely gifted songs they felt had the most hit potential. Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas rode to number one with the Lennon song ‘Bad to Me’, but Lennon didn’t believe it was good enough to be cut by The Beatles. Similarly, ‘A World Without Love’ wasn’t held in very high regard by McCartney, despite its earworm melody that could have sent it straight to the top of the charts had The Beatles decided to cut it.

In fact, the song did hit number one in both the UK and the US thanks to the Peter and Gordon version, giving it a permanent place among the eras most iconic tunes. McCartney didn’t seem all that put out by the song’s success: it was one of four UK number ones that Lennon/McCartney had in 1964 alone, so they could probably spare an odd fluke hit here and there.

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